Saturday, October 1, 2016
[Crisis Communications Strategies] Change the Narrative
One of the biggest mistakes in crisis communications is to be on the defensive. Often times, when a crisis happens, the organization will automatically try to justify its position even if its position is weak. This then leads the narrative down a rabbit hole where it will be impossible for the organization to turn the negativity around.
Instead, what organizations should do, is to change the narrative.
A good example of this happened on Skyscanner's Facebook page last month. In what was clearly a tech glitch where a traveler's waiting time between flights was reflected as 413,786 hours, the traveler cheekily posted a screenshot of his flight itinerary on Skyscanner's Facebook page and asked for suggestions on what he can do during his 47-year wait. Instead of responding defensively, Skyscanner changed the narrative by saying: ""Unless you're a huge fan of The Terminal, I'd probably recommend spending those years outside of the airport, so here are a few suggestions." The manager promptly recommended checking out Thailand's Songkran festival for the next 46 years and even told him that "a cruise on the Chao Phraya river could keep [him] busy for a while."
Needless to say, netizens were so taken by the refreshing reply that the narrative has moved away from the tech glitch to how fantastic the reply was. In fact, the traveler that posted the snide remark has come off as petty and small. Additionally, Skyscanner has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in free publicity.
Some crisis communication practitioners might wonder if this will work in a serious crisis. In our opinion, it will depend very much on the situation and the alternate narrative that is chosen. Even if the change of narrative does not change completely, it will at least help to balance the negative stories coming out. PR agencies in the US are very adept at this. Whenever there is shooting or mass killings, a "hero" will emerge and his or her heroics will be pushed as the alternate narrative.
In summary, while crisis will have a narrative of its own, as crisis communicators we are not bound to follow it. Our job, is to find and push an alternate narrative that will show our client in good light.
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